Summary of Field Guides

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« Ontario Field Naturalist's Toolchest

Summary of Field Guides

Here is in brief a roundup of all the field guides on this webpage.  Using these resources you should be able to identify just about anything in central Ontario.  If that doesn't work there is the Internet, libraries, and researchers to look up.

5* Outstanding.  Innovative features, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing
4* Must have field guide.  Some minor problems.
3* Good guide, often a supplement work.  Some significant problems, but still quite usable. May have scientific jargon, coverage may not be done to species or genera level, may have too many species to wade through, etc.
2* Usable but with significant problems.  Guides that are just a key with no illustrations rate here.
1* Not recommended unless it is the only resource available.  
Ratings are a basic measure of usefulness, ease of use, coverage (species level preferred) and aesthetics.  Some of the guides have been used in the field although most of the guides have been merely seen or judged based on internet reviews.  

Sci: A scientific angle that makes a resource different for an amateur naturalist to use.  Often filled with scientific jargon or contains lots of information of little interest to naturalists.  Scientific names used primary.
Sup: A supplement work.  Used when you need a second opinion or need additional information to identify an organism.  
Ref: Reference.  A thick book not meant to be taken into the field.
Non: Not a standard field guide.
Com: Computer based resource

Books in bold are key books to be used in the field.


  • General: Beginner or more (5*) Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America
  • General: Intermediate or more (5*) Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
  • General (4 1/2*) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th Edition
  • General (4*) Kaufman Field Guide to the Birds of North America
  • General (4*) Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
  • General (4*) All the Birds of North America
  • General (4* Ref) Smithsonian Handbooks: Birds of North America -- Eastern Region
  • General (4* Com) Thayer's Birds of Canada
  • Local (4*) Lone Pine's Birds of Ontario
  • Local (3 1/2*) Lone Pine's Compact Guide to Ontario Birds
  • Local (4*) Lone Pine's Ontario Birds
  • Local (4*) Lorimer Pocketguide to Ontario Birds
  • Local Checklist (4*) Seasonal Checklist of the Birds of North Bay and Area
  • ID Challenges (4*) Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges
  • ID Challenges (4*) Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion
  • ID Challenges (3*) Peterson's A Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them
  • Signs (3*) Bird Tracks and Signs
  • Phishing (3* Non) The Art of Phishing: How to Attract Birds by Mimicking Their Calls
  • Scat on windows (3*) What Bird Did That?: A Driver's Guide to Some Common Birds of North America
  • Habitat (3* NON) The Habitat Guide to Birding
  • Behavior (3*) Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 1 to 3
  • Nests (4*) Peterson's Field Guides: Eastern Birds' Nest
  • Nests (3* Sup) A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds
  • Atlas (4* Ref) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005
  • Techniques (4* Non) Sibley's Birding Basics
  • Life History (4* Non) The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior
  • Computer: complete, but expensive (5*) National Geographic Handheld Birds 
  • Computer: bird song on iPod (5*) birdJam


  • Bugs: Local () Bugs of Ontario
  • Bugs: Local () Insects of Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Bugs: Local () Insects -- Their Natural History and Diversity
  • Bugs: Local () Insects of the Great Lakes Region
  • Bugs: General () Peterson's A Field Guide to Insects
  • Bugs: General () Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
  • Bugs: General () National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America
  • Bugs: General (Ref) Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects
  • Bugs: Behavior () Stokes' Guide To Observing Insect Lives
  • Bug Spats () That Gunk on Your Car: A Unique Guide to Insects of North America
  • Bugs: Household () A Field Guide to Household Bugs
  • Bugs: Aquatic () Guide to Aquatic Insects And Crustaceans
  • Bugs: Garden () Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs
  • Bugs: Portal () BugGuide.Net
  • Butterflies () Butterflies of the North Woods, 2nd Edition
  • Butterflies () Butterflies of Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Butterflies () Stokes' Beginner's Guide to Butterflies
  • Butterflies () Point Pelee National Park Nature Series - Butterflies of Point Pelee
  • Butterflies () Butterflies through Binoculars: The East
  • Butterflies () How to Spot Butterflies
  • Butterflies () Butterflies of the Great Lakes Region
  • Butterflies () Common Butterflies and Skippers of Eastern North America
  • Butterflies () Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America
  • Butterflies () Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterflies
  • Butterflies () The Butterflies of North America
  • Butterflies () (James Scott's) Butterflies of North America
  • Caterpillars () Caterpillars in the Field and Garden: A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America
  • Caterpillars () Caterpillars of Eastern North America
  • Caterpillars () Photo Field Guide to Some Caterpillars of Southern Ontario
  • Caterpillars () A Field Guide to Caterpillars (Butterflies Through Binoculars Series)
  • Caterpillars () Caterpillars of Eastern Forests
  • Caterpillars () Butterfly and Moth Caterpillars: Identification Guide
  • Moths () Peterson's A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
  • Moths () Le Guide des Papillons du Québec
  • Moths () Checklist of Moths of the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists
  • Moths () Moths of the Ottawa Area
  • Moths () Moth Photographers Group
  • Moths () Moths of Canada
  • Moths () The Moth Book: A Guide to the Moths of North America
  • Moths () The Cutworm Moths of Ontario & Quebec
  • Moths () Sedge Moths of North America
  • Moths () The Wild Silk Moths of North America
  • Moths (Caterpillars) Caterpillars of Eastern North America
  • Dragonflies () Dragonflies of the North Woods
  • Dragonflies () Stokes' Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies
  • Dragonflies () The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Dragonflies () Dragonflies through Binoculars
  • Damselflies () Damselflies of Alberta: Flying Neon Toothpicks in the Grass
  • Dragonflies () Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern North America
  • Dragonflies () Odonata Larvae of Michigan
  • Damselflies () Damselflies of the Northeast
  • Damselflies () Damselflies of the North Woods
  • Spiders () Spiders of the North Woods
  • Beetles () Peterson's A Field Guide to the Beetles
  • Homoptera () Field Guide To Grasshoppers, Katydids, And Crickets Of The United Sates


  • Mammals: Tracks () Mammal Track and Signs
  • Mammals: Tracks () Animal Tracks of Ontario
  • Mammals () Mammals of North America, a Kaufman Focus Guide
  • Mammals () Mammals of Ontario
  • Herpetofauna () Amphibians and Reptiles of the North Woods
  • Fishes () Peterson Field Guides: Freshwater Fishes
  • Fishes () Fishes of the Great Lakes Region, Revised Edition


  • Trees () Trees In Canada
  • Shrubs () Shrubs of Ontario
  • Wildflowers () Newcomb's Wildflower Guide
  • Wildflowers () Peterson's A Field Guide to Wildflowers
  • Wildflowers (Simple) Ontario Wildflowers: 101 Wayside Flowers
  • Wildflowers (Hard to ID Groups) The Asters, Goldenrods, and Fleabanes of Grey and Bruce Counties
  • Ferns () The Ferns of Grey & Bruce Counties
  • Ferns () Peterson Field Guide to Ferns, Second edition
  • Grasses () Grasses: An Identification Guide
  • Grasses () How to Identify Grasses and Grass-like Plants
  • Mosses () A Graphic Guide to Ontario Mosses
  • Mosses () Field Guide to the Peat Mosses of Boreal North America
  • Liverworts () An Enthusiasts Guide to the Liverworts and Hornworts of Ontario

Other Life

  • Mushrooms () Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada
  • Mushrooms () Mushrooms of Northeastern North America
  • Lichens () Lichens of the North Woods
  • Invertebrates () Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America
  • Mollusks () The Freshwater Mollusks of Canada
  • Mussels () Photo Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of Ontario
  • Earthworms () Earthworms of the Great Lakes
  • Bacteria () A Field Guide to Bacteria
  • Bacteria () Guide to Microlife

Sky and Earth

  • Binocular Astronomy () Binocular Astronomy
  • Binocular Astronomy () Touring the Universe Through Binoculars
  • Astronomical Events () What's Out Tonight : 50 Year Astronomy Field Guide 2000 to 2050
  • Weather () The Weather Identification Handbook
  • Weather () National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather
  • Snowflakes () Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes
  • Atmospheric Optics () Atmospheric Optics
  • Atmospheric Optics () Rainbows, Haloes, and Glories
  • Ice Halos () Atmospheric Halos
  • Natural Radio () Aurora Chorus
  • Geology () Firefly Guide to Minerals, Rocks and Fossils